"COME PLAY with us!" Clair Buckner says with a laugh. "Come get dirty!"
Her frank yet playful attitude is enticing, but her passion is downright catching. Buckner spreads her passion—clay—to her students as one of Savannah’s Department of Cultural Affairs’ visual art instructors.
Throughout the year, Buckner and other locally based artists lead students of all ages through a variety of fine arts and crafts classes. Registration for the first session of classes, which run from Jan. 12-Feb. 20, is currently open, making it the perfect holiday gift for creatives of any age.
“We specialize in fine craft,” says Debra Zumstein, the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Art Programs Coordinator. The Cultural Affairs facilities boast a ceramics studio, as well as, a metalsmithing, fused glass, and stained glass studio.
“It makes perfect sense to have that kind of studio set up for the public to have access to,” Zumstein says, “We do also offer some fibers, painting, and drawing, as well.”
Their diverse class offerings attract a wide range of students. From the ‘Morning Mud for Toddlers’ class that joins 3-5 year olds and their parents in messy clay delight, to ‘Children’s Painting’ and ‘Teen Jewelry’ classes that engage kids from 8 years old into their teens, to the large variety of classes for adults 17 and up, Cultural Affairs has a class for everyone.
“It’s not that there is one class I’m really excited about. I’m excited about all of it because we get people from all walks of life, all ages, all everything,” Buckner says.
In addition to 14 three to six weeklong classes, the first 2015 session features numerous workshops.
“These are one or two day workshops that give you opportunity to try something new. When you find the right niche for yourself, we have a 6-week class that will allow you the time and immersion to really develop those skills,” Zumstein says.
Best of all, the classes and workshops are very reasonably priced and as Zumstein explains, “it’s an all-inclusive price. So, all of the supplies that you’re going to need for each class is in the one fee.”
Classes at Cultural Affairs are about as approachable as art gets, thanks in large part to the attitude of instructors like Buckner who professes, “There’s no failure with it. We can try anything once; just don’t burn the building down.”
Perhaps because of this inclusive, experimentation-friendly philosophy, the program has gained a devoted following of students.
“We have people that come and take classes constantly. You think if you came and took the same class 4 times in a row, you’d be done, but they’re never done,” Bucker says.
Zumstein recounts the story of one student turned instructor, Tana Felicca-Flagg.
“She started in our ceramics program. She moved over to metalsmithing and has fallen in love with it. Now she teaches a Kumihimo workshop where you learn Japanese braid making.”
From this dedication and passion a community of artists made of both instructors and students has grown. Every December the Department of Cultural Affairs shares the fruits of this community’s labor with the public.
The “2nd Annual Student, Instructor, and Staff Exhibition and Art Sale,” currently on view at the Cultural Affairs Gallery till the end of December, showcases over 100 works from more than 20 artists.
The range of work demonstrates the wide assortment of classes and people that make up the program.
“All of our teachers are artists themselves, so they bring to each class their own unique style, and the opportunity to push students to develop their styles,” Zumstein says.
The exhibition also displays the spirit of what Buckner is inviting others to join in on.
“It lets people kind of be a kid again. It’s a chance to just explore and be free and to not be judged. It’s not a grade. You come if you want to. If you come with a buddy, it’s even more fun. If you don’t then you’ll have one before you leave.”
Buckner discovered the Cultural Affairs classes as an instructor. “It’s one of the best kept secrets. I never knew it was here. We got to get the word out.”
This is why she and Zumstein think a visual arts class is a great holiday present. It’s that rare type of gift that allows someone to experience themselves and the world differently, flex some muscles they may have forgotten that they have, and get their hands a little dirty, all with a group of friendly new faces.
As Zumstein says, “Why would you buy a class? Because you’re going to get here and love it.”